Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How to Master the Most Elusive Screenplay Element: Tone

Here are some specific ways to think about your screenplay’s tone.

In a screenplay, tone is the most elusive element. It doesn’t necessarily have a physical form on the page, but emerges from between the lines as a conglomeration of dialogue, structure, character, and narrative development. It manifests as a feeling rather than a tangible entity. For these reasons, tone often escapes even the best writers. But when a script has a precise and compelling tone, it raises the final cut of the film considerably.

When you’re in the early processes of drafting your script—either outlining or simply thinking of ideas—it’s important to understand how form enables tone (and vice versa). Tone is a byproduct of your screenplay’s structure; the way your script will feel to your reader is a result of how you choose to dole out information. An easy example of this is Moonlight. The chapter structure coupled with the distinct choice to withhold information by exiting scenes earlier than expected adds to the free-flowing, “memory-like” tone of the film. (Of course, this tone is later enhanced by the sweeping cinematography and music.)

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How to Master the Most Elusive Screenplay Element: Tone

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